Tuesday, December 18, 2012

wistful christmas wishes

I want the smell of pine trees and musty old barns
Pretty ribbons to tempt my fingers to tie them
A wreath, incomplete, held in place by the hands
Of a forested friend

I want snow in the grass
That is still green, but stunted by the cold
Reminding that the winter's not forever
That someday we'll have different sorts of weather

I want winds frozen by Hell's Gates
I want mountains, Gandalf, mountains
And a snowy, ill-timed hike
With an itchy hat

My snowboots are in hiding
My long underwear's residing
In a cold garage, alone.
They're staying chilled this winter
but they're clamoring for home.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

a short listing

Things to do with my life:

-Drink coffee
-Give/get smooches
-Give/get hugs
-Read books
-Listen to music
-Make music
-Pay t3h billz
-Go on walks
-Enjoy the seasons
-Love people
-Pet kitties and puppies

...to be continued.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


You sneaky leaves, I'm catching on
To your attempt to flatter me

The colors, all so vibrant, that you flaunt
Are soothing sights to see

And don't pretend your innocence;
I've caught all those autumnal scents
Of rot and wet and loveliness
That follow in your footsteps

You sneaky trees, I'm catching on
To your attempt to captivate

Your branches slowly paring down
Towards nudity, they herald late
(The end of summer sun)

And don't pretend you didn't know
Your limbs are starting all to show
I saw you lately, letting go
Of all the leaves that hid you so


These scissors are indelicate things
Ignoring the fine lines I suggest that it follows
Interpreting sideways and frontwards, I swallow
It's decisions
As only a helpless man can

A divot;
It's only
A trivial thing
But only perfection
Not constant correction
The product
That I want to see

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Missoula and Seattle and Tacoma and the mountains,
You places that I'd fit in my pocket, if I could.
The Sound and the Clark Fork and and the rivers that come off it,
The waters that I'd love to linger near
Are sadly far, and far away from here.

 The people that live in and near around you
Are dearer than the features of this coast:
The rolling hills and fluffy trees,
Mosquitos, spiders, fruit flies, bees,
Are much more prevalent than I expected;
The bugs, they bug enough to misdirect a tired rhyme.

 You, and you, and you, and you, I miss.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Let's follow these tracks wherever they may lead
Go, my roaming Romeo
Don't return to what you know
You told me once of how you loved adventure and misdeeds
Run and live where they can't find
We'll find ways to pass the time

Friday, May 18, 2012

Feeling something

Well, the inevitable has come to pass: though I spent nearly three years resisting it, I must finally throw up my hands and say, "alright, Missoula. You got me." I have become attached to this town. Its rivers, its mountains, its flora, its people. The talk of fires and forests and hiking. The floating and beer drinking and enjoying life. The music. The music I make in it. And the sun (it does amazing things here). I realize now, I think, what happens to people in this place.

I'm realizing that I'll be leaving things that I really and truly love. Playing with Vanguard. Singing songs with people I know. Doing it in the environment that Missoula provides.

And this, of course, would happen right as I'm about to leave. I'm not ready to be torn up by the roots. Because they've been extending deeper down without my noticing. I've been distracted by the good times that cultivate those things, I guess.

Maybe this is good. Maybe this is okay. What did my friend Lindsey say? "I want to feel like I've lived in a place. I want to feel like I'm leaving part of myself behind when I go." Something like that. It scares me to death, that idea. But I suppose at this point I won't be able to help it.

I was going to title this post "feeling sorrowful," and then "feeling alive," and then "feeling wary..." But it's all of those, and more. It's a huge flood of emotions: happiness, sadness, gratefulness, silliness, loneliness, vibrancy, confusion, terror, contentedness... and so many other things. I'm scared to move. Not only because I'm going to New York City (which is terrifying in itself), but because I will be leaving Missoula. Missoula feels safe now. Which I suppose is reason enough to make my way into the rest of the world.

Pandora just threw Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" at me. How fitting. "Can I handle the seasons of my life?" it asks. I know I can. And I will succeed. I'm confident in what I'm doing. I'm excited and thrilled by the possibilities the City holds. I just need to break out beyond this beautiful, endearing, last best place. I'm pretty sure it will be here waiting for me when I need it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Rhyming and not quite rhyming. I call it stylistic. Or something.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

It creeps ever closer

And so. We are moving towards New York... in that jobs are being sought, visits are being made, plans are just (just) starting to become mapped out in our minds. And it's so loose and looming that everything seems intimidating. Even thinking about it is intimidating. But the summer is approaching. Soon, I won't have the excuse of school to hide behind. Soon, I'll have to apply to every job I can, treating each application as if it could be the diamond in the dunghill of resumes these people have to sift through. It's exhausting to work up that much fake-excitement about being an administrative assistant. Even if I am applying for a job at Carnegie Hall.

Conveniently, I have some wonderful references. Thankfully, I have a supportive family and husband. Sadly, I'm starting to realize that leaving Missoula means leaving Missoula. And all the people I know and love. I actually made friends here at some point along the way...

I've been trying to remind myself (when I forget) that I should enjoy every moment for what it is. The rain. The time with friends. Times I get to be by myself. Times I get to walk outside. Taking in those moments is a big part of being content, I think. But it is hard to avoid the feelings of impending sadness. They say, "you're leaving soon! Look at how much you'll miss!" and then I wallow. (Isn't that a great word? wallow. Like slopping through big puddles of mud. In rain boots. Kind of fun, if you think about it.)

But why, oh why, wouldn't I instead spend my time enjoying the next few weeks, months, whatever we have, in the space I'm in right now? Why can't those thoughts be a motivating factor, reminding me to really enjoy the moment? Let's mark a turning point here. Time for enjoyment, not wallowing. Even if it is a fun word.

Friday, April 6, 2012

but it's still pretty

This April snow is dampening my mood
I don't appreciate the way it moves around the skies like it belongs

And now it's blanketing its wet self on the ground (which willingly accepts its fate)
It's Easter eve tomorrow, but the dogwood's blooming late
It can't accommodate
This April snow.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Y'know what I want to be able to say?

"New York-based."

Doesn't it sound lovely?

It's a tantalizing thought, taunting me towards the trophy my thinkings are tightly twirling around. (sucky alliteration! woo!)

Also, holy crap Briana Cowlishaw. I'm infatuated. I want all of her music. And her song writing abilities. Maybe I could steal them.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

feels like high school

Around 'bout the sun my mind wanders
Tendrilling thoughts
drilling 'mongst the forgotten light's fingers

Haven't you heard of the way that light peers around corners
It's really quite awful,
it fills quite a lot of
the space that it doesn't intend to

(I see you.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

maybe it's remembering

I'm feeling the need to be active. To get out. To do something. Something like yoga by the river (not sure exactly how that would work out... where do you lay your mat?). Something like hiking the M. Something like climbing a tree. The birds are up there. I like trees too. Why shouldn't I join them?

I have the urge to run and fall and scrape my hands on the sidewalk. I want bruises and cuts and scabs from playing outside and maybe getting into that space behind the shed that's a little too gross and dirty and dangerous. I want the wind knocked out of my belly because I accidentally let go of the branch I was swinging on and fell to the ground stomach-first. Perhaps I just want to be 6. This is a possibility.

I want to unleash my energy on the world around me until I'm spent. And then I will go back to being responsible and rational and reserved. But I want some moments where I can be a chicken with my head cut off. Please?

Also, I wish I could have a spring break, too. Harrumph.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Academic Flashback

Do normal people get the urge to write philosophical/musicological commentary on social issues? Just curious.

Because I've been thinking a lot recently about a few things. Like...
Jazz as popular music
The role of jazz in the institution
The creativity of individuals ("finding your own voice")
The evolution of jazz
Jazz as historical music
The role of art in popular music (or, the role of art towards the public)

Mainly, today it struck me that the institutionalization of jazz (i.e., how we now treat it in the classroom like we treat classical music: as something to be studied and taught in an academic manner) might have begun the stifling of jazz as popular music. And because we have this "institutionalized" view of jazz, perhaps we're not as open to the way in which it is evolving in the modern world. This could be wildly off the mark. But it's just a thought.
And on a related note, I don't feel that students of jazz have been able to be sufficiently creative because of the way they are introduced into a rigid system that says "this is jazz." They aren't encouraged to find their own voice (but teachers don't realize this, I think). They're encouraged to mimic other voices (transcription, transcription, transcription). Not that that's bad. And I don't think the intent is to stifle. But after being told to mimic exactly what "the greats" have done, students fall into the trap of idolizing their favorite artists and aren't focused on becoming individual artists themselves.
However, maybe that is just my excuse for not becoming obsessed with certain artists like other people do. Or for being lazy about transcription. I don't know.

But the question, I think, is what are we supposed to do with jazz? Where is it going? Where are WE going as jazz musicians? Are we learning things that are relevant to our careers as musicians...?

Also, where is the meeting point for intellectual music and pop culture? What is the role of innovators like Philip Glass in popular music? Is there room for art, real art, in popular music? Can the general public be expected to listen to someone like Aaron Parks and like it? Should they? Or do we over-intellectualized music nerds want to think we're doing something "special" by making something that is highly inaccessible? Is there value in making something in such a narrowly understood niche? Should good art be accessible, categorically? Oh, the questions of modern culture!
(I took a philosophy class on aesthetics. You'd think I would have concrete opinions about things like this.)

Anyways. I blame a lot of these thoughts on Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding,who are trying to do fantastic but also popular things with jazz. And I think this is incredibly interesting. Whether or not they are successful... I suppose that remains to be seen.

Hm. All these ideas and questions are bouncing around in my head... I suppose I'll have to keep thinking and exploring.  Who knew the I-need-to-write-a-paper urge would follow me around after I quit real school.

Friday, March 16, 2012


This slight change in temperature has kick-started my warm-weather longing.
I am ready for sandals. And sunshine. And shorts, skirts, and tank tops. Not to mention swimming, floating, and eating ice cream in sundresses.
I am especially ready for the way the sun shines through a canopy of maple leaves in the early afternoon during the summer. That sun-in-the-middle-of-the-sky sort of dappled light is one of my favorite things in the world.

In the absence of these things, however, I will be going out this weekend to buy some tan-in-a-bottle. For some reason, I feel like this will console my summer-hungry feelings.
You see, I don't mind being a white, pasty Montanan in the wintertime. But when I get this warm-weather longing, I am no longer satisfied with my ghostly pallor. Since the sun is obviously not providing an adequate amount of toast-age, I will be turning to my local drugstore for some skin color satisfaction. And this will give me just enough of a glow that I will feel at least marginally satisfied. It will be a reminder that summer is coming. And that reminder will be "good enough."

Y'know what else I'll be doing this weekend? Probably making this baked spinach. (I just started exploring Smitten Kitchen, and holy cow, am I enamored.)

On another random note: my tea bag brought me this message this morning. "Grace brings contentment," it says. A good thing to remember.

Lastly, TGIF.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

It's a Passion

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love music. I'm particularly enjoying Cyrille Aimée today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I bought this necklace a few weeks ago to remind myself where I'm headed. It struck me as kind of cheesy, but I knew as soon as I saw it that I needed to have it. Interestingly, I feel like my practice has picked up since I've been wearing it. Turns out I'm not immune to kitschy inspiration.
Other interesting tidbits: it's a scrabble tile (I'm playing a bit of a game with life at the moment) and the letter on the back is an E (for East Coast, eh?).

Thursday, March 1, 2012

ode to coffee

Oh coffee, you silky brown goddess of the morning. How I love your gently insistent aroma when I pour water over your grounds, and the taste of you as you slip over my tongue. You wake my senses to the morning world around me. As the sun's rays creep over the mountains, you creep through my body, warming, illuminating, gently whispering that it is indeed a new day.

Oh, coffee. You remind me that simple pleasures are the best.

Friday, February 10, 2012


February sun, your vibrant rays
Your gently rising arc
Entice my fleece-bound layers 'part.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

We're almost at the end of the third week of the semester, and things are just starting to settle. We're almost into a routine (but not quite).

My department weathered the blow of the sudden death of a faculty member almost two weeks ago. We're still reeling a bit, but it's hard to notice when business must must must proceed as usual. The mourning of death and the necessity of continuing to live and work seem so opposed to each other. I just wanted some time to stop and think. Close the office for a day or two. Just be, in honor of the coworker/friend/mentor/professor we lost. But things needed doing, problems in the wake of the death needed solving, and we all had to keep on moving.

With this tragedy and the recent visit of a friend occupying my time, I feel like I haven't gotten anything done in the last week and a half. And the last week and a half seems like it's been the longest week and a half I've ever experienced. (At the very least, it's like, in the top 3.)

I'm hanging on until Friday at 5, when I'm free from the restraints of work for the weekend. I really need this weekend. And I'm glad that it's only a day away. (I love you, tomorrow. But kind of only if your Saturday.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday, finally

Well, it looks like we (that is, the UM campus and all its peoples) made it through the first week of classes. That did not seem very possible as of Tuesday, for some reason. But as busy and frustrating and tiring as the first week of classes can be, we always seem to make it through. At this point, it shouldn't be much of a surprise. But here we are, waiting for Friday to end with plenty of energy (ha) to make it through the weekend.

Some things I've learned this week:
-I suck at practicing. When it's not on my schedule, or if I have to use my lunch hour to talk to professors or run errands, I just don't make the time to practice. One of my favorite teachers suggested to me this week that I mark off the time I would have been in class and spend it practicing. A good idea. There's a reason she has a PhD. So, my practice time can't exist on a generic "to-do list." It needs its own special spot on my calendar.
-My combo sucks at practicing, too. I mean, we only have an hour or so to get all of our shiznit done. And we often spend about 30 minutes or so talking over things that, while important, take time away from playing music together. So, I think we'll need to get a bit more organized and go into practice sessions with an idea of what we need to do. Maybe I could even make a list. Because that's how I do, yo.
-I get more done when things are busier. I never notice (in the moment, at least) that I slow w-a-a-a-y down during the break. But I definitely do. Something that would take me 30 minutes during the semester can take days when no one's around. I am not very good at self-discipline (see first point). I guess this is just something I need to be aware of so I can manage it better.
-I have the best professors ever. I was hesitant to talk to them about my decision to move to New York. But every single one I've talked to has been surprisingly supportive. The ones I'm taking classes from are trying to find ways to help me achieve my goals. It's pretty fantastic, this.

So. I think it's about time that I buck up and get excited and maybe slightly more motivated to get some of this jazziness done. I've been on break for long enough. Now it is time to move my patootie.

Monday, January 23, 2012


It's good to have goals, I hear. I suppose I missed the boat on New Year's resolutions, but I never think those count anyways. But since I'm off on this hardcore adventure towards jazz, I've developed some pretty extensive wishes about what I can get done this semester. So now I want to write it out so I can have something to come back to and say, "oh yeah, I was gonna do that, too."

Every day goals
1. Practice my voice: tunes, improvisation
2. Practice jazz piano: chords, then voicings
3. Transcribe, even if it's just a little bit

Semester-long goals
1. To arrange a few pieces: horns, bass, everything.
2. To get 200-300 songs in my book, if not more.
3. To work on my stage presence, especially in between songs
4. To get some kick-ass outfits to wear on stage

By the end of the summer goals
1. To have 400-600 songs in my book
2. To have transcribed Ella's solo on "How High the Moon"
3. Find a job in NYC
4. Move to NYC

That may not be complete. But I think it's a good start.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Decisions, decisions

Sometimes decisions are hard. Like the decision to drop all but two classes in your final semester.
Sometimes decisions are easy. Like the decision not to get a second BA.
Sometimes decisions are complicated. Like when example A coincides with example B and then you feel like you might disappoint some professors and maybe some parents. Or professors who are somewhat parental.
Sometimes decisions are obvious. Like the decision to move to New York.
Sometimes decisions are embarrassing. Like the decision to tell people why I'm moving to New York.
Sometimes decisions should not be ignored. Like the decision of whether or not I should go sing jazz.
Sometimes decisions are exciting. Like the decision to spend over 20 hours a week working on jazz.
Sometime decisions are gut-wrenching. Like the decision to not move back to Seattle.
Sometimes decisions are comforting. Like the decision to make a warm, fuzzy scarf.
Sometimes decisions are oddly important and informative. Like the decision to tell your boss why you're changing your course load.
Sometimes decisions are unexpected. Like when you wanted to order the duck, but the server says they're out of duck. NOW what will you do?

Life is so full of deciding. It can be a bit overwhelming. Maybe that's why I like naps so much.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cowl scarf

By the way, I made this scarf the other day. I'm kind of loving it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Turn, turn, turn

There is a time for everything. And this, it seems, is the time for me to start pursuing music.

"Music?" you ask sarcastically. "Really, Shannon? How long, exactly, has it taken you to figure this out?" My answer is: 24 years, good sirs and madams. Even though I've been actively musician-ish since the tender age of... oh, probably 3 or 4. Who would've thunk.

It's true. It took me almost 24 years to realize that music was what I wanted to be involved in. That singing, in particular, is what I want to dedicate myself to. Granted, there were little signs and hints along the way. I minored in music at PLU, playing in the wind ensemble and (in my last semester) singing in combo class. I was in our church choir when we lived in Seattle. I took a smattering of vocal jazz lessons. I joined the wind ensemble when we moved to Missoula. I conceded that I wanted to study music - in an academic vein, the philosopher in me insisted - and started working towards a second BA in music history so that I could apply to graduate programs in musicology. And I enrolled in jazz combo instead of wind ensemble when I officially became a student.
That last step, it seems, was my downfall. Jazz just swallowed me up and kept me comfy and incredulous at the same time. And this fall, things started happening that woke me up to the power of this music in my life. Our combo was performing. I liked singing. I started taking lessons regularly, practicing... practicing! I had never practiced singing before (at least, with any sort of rigor). And suddenly, something said "New York" and I didn't immediately dismiss the thought. "New York," the idea said again, expanding itself in my consciousness, and I allowed it to make its way through my mind. I poked it a little, but not much. Let the idea expand, I thought, and we will think and hope and pray and maybe be able to do this in a rational way. There were, of course, the "what are you thinkings" and "be logicals" and "really, you are going a bit crazies" that lashed out, on instinct, at this idea. But the idea didn't care. It had grabbed hold of the other parts of me that wanted, wanted, wanted the possibility of jazz to work. As it turns out, those parts are fighting harder against the unbelieving parts every day. And they're starting to win the logical side over. Now it butts in with "oh look, there are plenty of administrative assistant positions available in New York, and they actually pay a decent wage," and "oh look, apartments in New York would be affordable if I had a day job" and "New York is really the best place for this sort of thing, so it's the most logical choice." Funny how things change. Or assimilate. Or evolve.
Jazz is like a weed, tunneling through the soft dirt of my life. I could try to rip it out, but its fractured roots would hang around, biding their time to erupt back into bloom.
And so, it seems that I have decided to cast aside academia (at the moment) and abandon a second degree. As prestigious and useful as a BA in music history is. she said sarcastically.
I clung, for a while, to the academics. It's more reasonable, I told myself, and performance is no real career. Getting a PhD shows that you've made use of your time. Becoming a professor means you're smart, educated, etc. Singing does not do that. Singers are not generally considered PhD-level intelligent. No offense, singers, but I was asked if I could read music by a saxophonist last year. Because that's what instrumentalists think of singers. (I can read music, by the way. I started playing the clarinet when I was 8, for goodness' sake.) But the idea in my mind was that only unreasonable people would choose to perform rather than... y'know, do something else. Like get a real job, etc.
I suppose it's all folly, though, in one way or another. Performance isn't necessarily a stable career choice. But neither, really, is getting a PhD. Not until you get tenure, and even then... in this economic climate, even tenure isn't a guarantee. And I don't want tenure. I don't want something that says, "congratulations, you're here for forever!" Not right now, at least. And I'm realizing that I don't necessarily want to teach in that mode, anyways. If I want to teach at all (which is not really all that certain).
I remember thinking when I was little that I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn't want to be a teacher. That conception has morphed somewhat in the last several years, but still. I think I tricked myself into thinking that being a professor would be the type of teaching I would like. Probably because it means you're really smart, and I would like to show people that I'm really smart. And again, singers don't really exude intelligence. Or I don't feel like they do. Because I'm an instrumentalist, gosh darn it, and me and all my instrumentalist friends KNOW that those singers are the lazy type of musicians.
But y'know what? I'm a good singer. There. I said it. I don't say that almost ever. Because I want to be humble. And humble people don't boast. I know that I am not the best singer. I still have a huge heaping ton of things to learn and work on. But I'm good at singing, good enough to work on it, good enough to devote myself to it - for a time, at least. And if I don't, I realize now that I will wish I had. So, in the interest of not turning into someone who wishes their life away on things they never do, I am moving. I am moving to New York. I am moving to New York to become a gigging musician. A singer of Jazz. And I will work and I will work until I'm awesome. And I will get paid to be awesome. And I will fall in love with New York and do my best to get New York to fall in love with me. Small parts of it, at least.

I don't think I've ever dreamed this big. Even though this is still the small type of dreaming big. But it's bigger than I'm used to. I've spent all my time thus far trying to be reserved, keeping things in check, holding on to reality. But something is changing, and I want to change with it. So. Here goes.